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Medical Technology During World War I

1124 words - 4 pages

Surgeries at the time of WWI were a direct result of the Industrial Revolution’s new technology; these surgical advances struggled to fix the horrible injuries sustained by soldiers from the new sophisticated weaponry. "Every war stimulates medical research. It’s sad, but true," said Frank Freemon. Although many soldiers died during attempts at things like reconstructive surgery and Caesarian sections, experimenting in the surgical fields improved conditions and advanced the science, as well as develop new professions in surgery. During this time, surgery was becoming more successful by leaps and bounds, attempting to overcome problems that killed soldiers like hemorrhaging, infection, and gangrene, with new inventions in the field, like transfusions and asepsis. The role surgery played during this war, and in the complete history of surgery, was important enough to be repeated in a famous novel, A Farewell to Arms; “Multiple superficial wounds of the left and right thigh and left and right knee and right foot. Profound wounds of right knee and foot. Lacerations of the scalp (59).” Later in the book, x-rays and methods of birthing are mentioned; both failures and successes in surgery appear in this book, showing that, to achieve the lofty goal of improving the lives of humans, these surgeons had to experiment with surgery.
A main reason for improved conditions in surgery was a discovery at the beginning of WWI of bacteria. In knowing what caused infections and the danger of open wounds, surgeons started using antiseptics and being cleaner. This made a huge impact on infectious diseases and saved many lives, but it was not enough, some men were not so easy to cure, and more death or permanent damage to the body became involved due to devastating numbers of hurt soldiers which could delay a surgery for more than two days. Fighting against disease and infection would save soldiers lives, such as the important invention of vaccinations against diseases like typhus and tetanus. These measures helped give surgeons time to try to come up with a solution for wounded soldier. A common example doctors had to deal with during the war was shrapnel wounds, or foreign bodies which had been imbedded into soldiers flesh. The surgery created to deal with this was also important, debridement, supposedly begun by a French medical officer called Dr. Riche, in 1914. This cleaner method not only removed the foreign bodies, but the surgeon would also cut out the skin surrounding the ‘contused and infected wound’ replacing it with a ‘clean healthy incised wound’. This was possible only because of the new cleanliness in hospitals, without antiseptics, bacteria wound have set into the open wounds much more often.
Other problems with surgery were; amputations, death due to shock, and blood loss. The last two were interrelated, discovered Henderson in 1908, and along with the discovery of blood typing, saving soldiers from shock by blood transfusion was possible. Yet,...

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